ISLAMABAD – Besides seeking input from Boeing, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will acquire assistance from the UN aviation body in the investigation it has launched into the Friday’s deadly plane crash.
But it is quite surprising that the CAA has ruled out the possibility of a mechanical fault in the plane or mismanagement on the part of air traffic control even before launching the probe into the deadly incident.
Talking to The Nation, CAA Director General (DG) Nadeem Khan Yousufzai said they had launched an inquiry within a couple of hours after the crash. The United Nations International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) would provide related assistance to the CAA in the probe supervised by the Defence Ministry, while other international aviation bodies would also be consulted, if required, he added.
Boeing, the manufacturer of the ill-fated 737-200 aircraft that carried Islamabad-bound flight B4-213 from Karachi, would also be approached for the evaluation of certain technical aspects, the DG said, adding that the investigation might take three to twelve months depending upon the nature of probe.
Dismissing the reports pointing fingers at the CAA for allowing a 27 years old and grounded plane (manufactured in 1984) to fly, the CAA chief insisted all the aviation standards regarding aircraft safety and maintenance were duly followed.
“Boeing is the world’s renowned aircraft manufacturer and its 737 planes are used in commercial flights in many countries. The ill-fated plane that went crashed on Friday was well maintained and there were no maintenance issues.”
Yousufzai also rejected the reports that the CAA navigational system developed problems that caused air crash. “The air traffic and navigational system are jointly managed by the CAA and Pakistan Air Force and there’s no chance of any lapse. The plane lost contact with air traffic control tower due to bad weather for sure, but it is yet to be determined whether it was cloud burst, micro burst or hailstorm. A detailed investigation is already underway.”
Head of the investigation and CAA Safety and Investigations Board President (SIB) Air Commodore Khawaja Majeed said the crashed Boeing 737-200 was airworthy and fit for domestic flights, as per its mandate. “It’s wrong to assume that the plane did not have airworthiness only because it was old. Had it not been airworthy, this plane would never have been allowed to carry out flight operations in the first place. Nevertheless, a detailed investigation is underway to ascertain the cause of crash,” he told this scribe on phone.
“Our experts are on it. It would be clear if the plane crash was the result of air traffic control rules violation, some technical problem or it was an activity to sabotage the flight operation.”
Khawaja said the aircraft safety standards were evaluated through a strict monitoring system that involved plane inspections from CAA, ICAO and aviation bodies in respective regions of the globe.
The SIB head said investigation would be completed and the related report prepared once all the aspects involving the air crash were covered.
Earlier, addressing a media briefing, CAA DG Captain Nadeem Khan Yousufzai said the Bhoja Air was given licence as per due rules and regulations without any political pressure and no outstanding dues were payable on part of the airline.
“They’ve cleared all the dues.” He said that Bhoja Air has been asked to pay compensation to the bereaved families. He repeated that flight safety standards and air traffic control (ATC) procedures were duly followed. The final authority whether to get the plane landed or to keep it flying under any given crisis situation rested with the pilot, Yousufzai maintained.
The DG said crashed Boeing 737 lost contact with ATC at 6:40 pm just four miles prior to landing and got crashed minutes later.
Agencies add: The CAA issued a preliminary investigation report on the Bhoja Airlines plane crash.
According to the report, the plane was properly positioned when it begun its approach. Three minutes before the crash, the plane’s captain had informed the control tower that the aircraft was getting out of his control as a fuel tank had caught fire.
The pilot asked for help to attempt an emergency landing, telling controllers he could see the roofs of homes but not the airport’s landing strip.
But the airliner descended 50 feet more before its tanks exploded, said the report. The plane was flying at the altitude of 2,000 metres when it had last contacted the control tower.
Minutes prior to its planned landing at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport, the plane had been descending at a speed of 500 kilometres per hour before it eventually crashed, the report revealed.
Meanwhile, the plane went into a sudden dive shortly before it disappeared from the radar screen and slammed into the ground, a senior aviation official said on Sunday.
The flight No B4-213 from Karachi to Islamabad suddenly dropped from 2,900 feet to 2,000 feet after it was cleared to land at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Nadeem Yousufzai told a news conference.
“It just went down into a dive...That has to be investigated. What was the reason, was it a downdraft or an engine failure?” he said.
He said no political pressure was involved in the airline’s clearance. The National Transportation Safety Board of the US and the aviation firms Boeing and Pratt and Whitney would be involved in the probe into the crash, Yousufzai said.
Earlier in the day, Meteorological Department Director Arif Mahmood told media that his organisation had issued two warnings about bad weather at 3 pm and 6 pm on Friday.
“There were high wind speeds and gusts of up to 65 knots or 100 kmph. In such a downdraft, it would be difficult for anything to survive,” he said.
However, the CAA chief contended that the weather warnings were not so severe that the Rawalpindi airport should have been closed, adding that the final decision on whether to land or turn back lay with the pilot.
A Bhoja Air spokeswoman said the plane’s age had no bearing on the tragedy, which happened as a thunderstorm hit the city.
“The aircraft was old and second hand but it is not something unusual. The fleet of state-run Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) also runs old aircraft,” Bhoja Air official Masham Zafar told AFP.
“There was no technical issue and bad weather is to be blamed.”
Interior Minister Rehman Malik Saturday said the name of Farooq Bhoja, the owner of the Bhoja Arilines, was placed on the Exit Control List (ECL). Furthermore, the Bhoja Airlines’ boss had been taken into ‘protective custody’, as the government would expose the culprits behind the disaster, he added.
The move came after the Friday’s tragic plane crash in Islamabad in which 127 people on-board were killed, as the government began an investigation into the disaster that sparked anger among the distraught relatives.
Talking to media persons at scene of the crash and in Pakistan Institute Medical Sciences (PIMS), Rehman Malik said the Boeing 737-200 crash incident would be thoroughly investigated through a judicial probe team to bring the responsible to book.
Rehman said two special flights were tasked to bring the heirs of the victim to Islamabad from Karachi.
“It is being said the aircraft was pretty old, so it has been decided to investigate thoroughly the air worthiness of the plane.”
He said the probe would determine whether the incident was a result of any fault in the aircraft or it was lightning and bad weather or any other factor, adding that the plane’s flight data recording systems, key to any investigation, had been recovered.
On his arrival at the PIMS, the interior minister received furious reaction from heirs of the victims who died in the air crash.
According to BBC, Islamabad police have registered a case regarding the air crash in which Farooq Bhola has been nominated.
According to another report, Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) has raided Bhoja Terrace situated in the vicinity of Aram Bagh in Karachi and arrested the owner of Bhoja Airlines, Farooq Bhoja.
The FIA also conducted raid at the head office of the company at Shahrah-i-Faisal and confiscated entire record after the air plane of Bhoja Airlines had crashed near on Friday near Rawalpindi.